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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

a.k.a Balm-of-Gilead, Carolina poplar, Hackmatack, Rough-bark poplar, Tacamahac
(Populus balsamifera syn. P. gileadensis)
(See also: Ontario Poplar, Other Poplars, Quaking Aspen, White Poplar

CAUTION! NOT to be used by those sensitive to aspirin and NOT to be used in recent inflammatory conditions.

The name Hackmatack is an Algonquin word meaning "wood for snowshoes". It is also a common name for Larch and Tamarack. The original, Biblical "balm-of-Gilead" was most probably the shrubby tree of the middle east (Commiphora ophobalsamum).

HARVEST: The leaf-buds are harvested in February, March or April depending on locality. They are used in cough preparations. The resin is extracted and used in prepations of ointment and plasters. The resinous properties are extracted in alcohol and used as tinctures. Oil of Populus is obtained by water distillation of the leaf-buds.


Bark is tonic and cathartic.
Buds are tonic, stimulant, sudorific, fragrant, and balsamic.
Fresh flowers are steeped in cold water and have been taken as a blood purifier.
Ointment is considered superior and has been used to rub on foreheads and cheeks for "hot" headaches and to reduce heat and puffiness in limbs and has also been used on sores. The ointment has also been used for rheumatism, gout, burns, sores and diseases of the skin
Has been used internally for chronic catarrh, diseases of the kidney, coughs, affections of the lungs and urinary organs.
Has been used for old long-standing coughs, dry asthma and pulmonic debility
Has been used for scurvy and leucorrhea.
Has been used for hard swellings and tumors
The infusion is considered useful for problems of the upper respiratory system (especially the larynx) and congestive bronchial infection.
Native Americans of the northwest treated burns by cooking deer suet with the leaf-buds (a handful of buds into a pan, then covered by suet, boiled 30 minutes and then strained). When cool it was applied to burns and then covered with a soft cloth.
The Chippewa used equal amounts of the root, bud and blossom mixed with the inner bark of aspen, red and bur oaks and the root of Seneca snakeroot combined in a healing ceremony for heart trouble. They also combined equal amounts of the root of poplar and the root of thistle and placed a handful in a quart of water, then boiled this thoroughly and drank it for back pain and for female weaknesses; it was taken freely throughout the day. They steeped the buds and used this in a poultice for muscle sprains and strains (about 1 handful buds boiled boiled in a cup of bear grease).
The Menomini made an ointment and used it to salve wounds and to place up the nostrils to cure a cold in the head.
The Pillager Ojibwe used the ointment on cuts, wounds, bruises and also placed it in the nostrils for congestion, catarrh or bronchitis.
The Potawatomi used the ointment for persistant sores and eczema
The substance bisabolol present in young shoots is active against the tubercule bacilli (Lewis and Elvin-Lewis 1959).

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
TINCTURE: 1 oz. or 2 of bruised buds placed into 1 pint of alcohol (80 or 100 proof vodka) and allowed to steep for 2 weeks. Dose is from 1 tsp to 1 tbsp 3 or 4 times daily. Can be added to cough syrups and can be used for bathing sores. Adding 1/3 part honey is useful for coughs.

The closed winter leaf-buds contain an antioxidant and a tincture of the buds is used as a preservative in cosmetics and ointments.
The Ojibwa peeled the bark from branches and collected the gum to eat; they also used poles of the poplar for building ordinary lodges (especially the Midewigan)

a.k.a Balm-of-Gilead, Balsam Poplar, Mecca Balsam, Tacamahaca, Tacamahack
(Populus x candicans)
No Image Available
(Also see: Balsam Poplar, Other Poplars, Quaking Aspen, White Poplar

CAUTION! NOT given to those sensitive to asprin (contains salicin).

The name Balm-of-Gilead is also applied to a number of other Poplars such as P. nigra, and P. balsamifera (known in Europe as Tacamahaca). The buds are covered in a fragrant resinous matter which can be separated in boiling water. It smells somewhat like incense with a bitter unpleasant taste.

NEEDS: Prune hard in late winter to encourage vigorous shoots and colorful new leaves.
HARVEST: Leaf-buds are taken in late winter/early spring before opening and then dried for infusions, extracts and tinctures. (NOTE: Leaf-buds must be soaked in alcohol before making infusions in order to expel the resin).
PART USED: Leaf buds.


Antiseptic, expectorant, lowers fevers, stimulates circulation, tonic, diuretic, anti-scorbutic, and balsamic. The oils are easily absorbed through the skin making it valuable for chest infections of all kinds.
Ointment rubbed on the chest MAY SHORTEN the length of a cold and some minor strains of flu.
Has been used externally to relieve pain and improve blood flow to an area, for colds, sinusitis, arthritis, rheumatism, muscle pain, dry skin conditions.
Has been used internally for bronchitis and upper respiratory tract infections.
Has been used in cough mixtures often combined with black cherry bark.
Tincture has been used for complaints of the chest, stomach and kidney.
Has been used for scurvy.
As an ointment it is useful for bruises and swellings.
It also has preservative properties which are useful in the making of ointments.
The leaf-buds are simmered in olive oil or lard to make a salve.
It has been mixed with a small amount of Vaseline for colds, chest pains and skin diseases.
The ointment has also been used for rheumatism and gout.

All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully.
SOLID EXTRACT = 5 to 10 grains
TINCTURE = 1 to 4 fluid drachms OR 5-20 minims
FLUID EXTRACT = 1 to 2 drachms
EXTRACT of the BARK = 5 to 10 grains (no more than 10 grains in 24 hours)

Used for acute colds and laryngitis.

The dried buds are added to potpourri for their balsamic fragrance.

(Populus spp)

Populus angustifolia (Narrowleaf Cottonwood): Inner bark considered a good antiscorbutic food. image

Populus deltoides: The Mohawk used the bark with a little hot water for intestinal worms. For horses they would dry the bark and then reduce it to a powder and with a little cold water make a paste; this was applied to the skin of horses on blisters that were filled with worms. The bark was gathered in autumn. image

Populus grandidentata (Large-toothed aspen): Said to have more activity and bitterness. The cambium was boiled for food by the Ojibwe. image

Populus monilifera (Northern cottonwood): Buds and seeds eaten by the Chippewa. The cottony down was applied over open sores as an absorbent. image

Populus nigra (Black poplar): PART USED: the buds.
CONTRAINDICATED: NOT USED externally when there is sensitivity to aspirin, poplar, propolis, or Peruvian balsam (possible skin reaction).
Diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, vulnerary. The seeds were made into a salve for external use on wounds and hemorrhoids. It was used internally for urinary problems, bronchitis, arthritis and rheumatism.
It is sometimes used in cosmetics for skin care.
Also used in alternative veterinary medicine as a wound remedy, and for debility and failing appetite. image

Populus sargentii (Sargent cottonwood): The young sprouts and inner bark used by Native Americans in Nebraska, North and South Dakota. image 1 image 2

Populus tremula (European poplar): Interchangeable with Black Poplar. Used in alternative veterinary medicine for wasting, indigestion, diabetes, rheumatism, tuberculosis and is used for all types of wounds, sores, ulcers and fistulas. A DOSE (animals) is 3 handfuls of leaves or buds daily. An old gypsy tonic for horses is to pound the buds in wine and milk. For external use on animals, brew 2 handfuls of buds to 1-1/2 pints of water. For an ointment for animals several handfuls of young buds are pounded well then gently heated in a little vinegar (1 tbsp vinegar to 1 handful crushed buds) and combined with equal amounts of olive oil, and beeswax and fat (preferably nut fat); fats and waxes are all melted in a double boiler over slow heat til fully dissolved (about 1 cup melted fat), then buds are mixed in (as much as the fat will absorb); stir well for 10 minutes and pour into jars and keep uncovered til set; use for wounds, sores, bruises and ulcers on animals. image

Populus wislizeni: Catkins were eaten raw by the Pueblos of New Mexico. image

a.k.a Abele
[bai bei yang]
(Populus alba)
(Also see: Balsam Poplar, Ontario Poplar, Other Poplars, Aspen, Quaking

CAUTION! Not for use by those who are sensitive to asprin.

BARK contains salicin, populin, benzoyl salicin, 5-9% tannin, ericin, salicinase, tremulacin, salireposide and (+)-isolariciresinol-beta-glucoside.
LEAVES contain populin, 0-5% essential oil, salicin, salicortin, tremulacin, tremuloidin, grandidentatin and riciresinol-beta-glucoside.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is studying poplar for potential antifertility agents. Historically, women drank tea of the leaves to prevent conception.

NEEDS: Tolerates drier conditions than most poplars. All poplars have an extensive root system and should not be planted near buildings or septic systems.
HARVEST: Bark is stripped from side branches and dried for decoctions, extracts, and powders.


Astringent, diuretic, cooling, reduces inflammation, relieves pain, bitter tonic, alterative
Stem twigs are depurative (promotes excretion of waste matter) and have been used for colic, eczema, genital herpes, and enlargement of the spleen.
Stem bark is also antiseptic and astringent and has been used for fever, dysuria, sciatica, colds, flu, goiter, hematachezia (bloody stool), and hemorrhage
Has been used internally for rheumatoid arthritis, gout, fevers, lower back pain, sciatica, urinary complaints, digestive and liver disorders, debility, and anorexia.
Has been used externally for chillblains, hemorrhoids, infected wounds, and sprains.
Has been combined with black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) and bogbean (Menyanthes trifoliata) for rheumatoid arthritis.
Has been combined with Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) and turtlehead (Chelone glabra) for anorexia.
The leaves have been used for caries of the teeth and bones.
Listed in the USP 1895-1936 for fevers and menstrual pain. Leaf-buds listed in the USP 1916-65 as expectorant and stimulant.

©2001 by Ernestina Parziale, CH